Musings on a drive to ooty

Not with standing an eventful night of hacking at my latest fad, hadoop, which ended at about 2Am, I woke up at about 630am to welcome a glorious Ganesh Chathurthi. The plan ? To drive 300 km to ooty !

Maybe its a vaasana from a previous life, or the result of tastes I developed in this lifetime, I am not sure, but you’ll find me happiest in the drivers seat with an open road before me and a full tank behind. That this came to pass is even more miraculous when you consider that as a child I was plagued with motion sickness. Infact I still remember throwing up repeatedly when as a child I was relegated to the passengers seat as we ascended (and descended) the same 36 pins I planned to attack today !

Driving has always meant freedom for me. A long drive is a promise of hours and hours of freedom. The moment you are in the drivers seat you are disconnected from the internet, your phone and the only electronic device you have access to is your GPS. After a few kilometres you no longer need to actively focus. You are in the “Zone”. You’re focus is at a level where it’s almost automatic as long as you keep your energy levels up. This is the point where, for me, I am at my creative best. Ideas, solutions, random thoughts, blog themes they all start surfacing.

We took the exit from nice road towards kanakapura. Immediately you feel the pace of life slow down. Lush greenery interspersed with a few small towns forgotten by time. Somewhere near Kanakapura we had to take a diversion into a small town. It had only two big buildings, the post office and what looked like the municipality head quarters. While the former looked a bit modern with the postal shade of red and the ems speed post sign over the front door. The latter seemed like from another era with wooden pillars in front surrounding dusty steps which led to a raised porch, behind which was the the only entrance to the building. The whole building was covered in pale yellow whitewash. On either side of the steps stood lawyers with their black coats and holding bright red binders in their hands. This building, the mud road, the surrounding small shops, the lawyers, the kids playing cricket on one side of the road and the busy housewives carrying groceries from their morning shopping, all looked like they were straight from a R.K.Narayanan book. Infact I half expected to see Swami run out onto the road rolling a tyre with his stick. I was literally taken to another era.

I must say something about the sky. When I drive, apart from the greenery outside, I always notice the sky. Today the sky was simply breathtaking. Bright sky blue with thick clouds arranged in layers like independent battalions. The clouds were absolutely still with bright white fluffy tops and thick cottony bottom halfs. A few had a dark grey line at the very bottom, promising rain in the near future. They conveyed the feeling of power. You are powerful when everyone waits for what you provide, while for you its a natural process of creation.

The hair pins were a bit of a challenge, constantly shifting between 1st and 2nd gear, but we made good time reaching our hotel in about 7hrs. As we entered the gate of the hotel we were left speechless by the view of the valley below. Lush greenery all around and trees that reach for the sky. Time to relax.


It is not important to win but it is important to fight.

We humans are at our best when we are fighting for something. Our greatest achievements are usually against insurmountable odds. Our greatest creations occur out of a deep desire to see something take shape, no matter, how fiercely the status quo repels it.

Or so it seems. Would the Michael Angelo on the roof of the Sistine chapel be as breathtaking if it was on the ground. Would a free India have been such an achievement if the British quietly left after the first world war?

It seems to me, our definition of “great work” is heavily biased by the struggle that precedes the achievement. Thus the malayalam refrain when judging common place work “any policeman could have done it”. Does that mean, doing a great thing is always a struggle during the fact, but is awesome post that. This logic pushes one, who wishes to achieve, to try harder, burn the midnight oil etc etc… With dubious results.

I think we need to rethink our definition of “Great achievement ” and the path to get there. Results should be judged on their own account. Take, for example, we are often told by our parents to work hard and climb the corporate ladder (“ravi uncles son has become manager”), but what is the achievement ? Is it breathtaking? Can you sit and watch the payslip for hours lying on your back ? Does it bring tears to your eyes like when you read that famous classic?

Separating the struggle from the result frees us a little bit to be creative about how to get there. Maybe just focus on the final product ? Is the world going to stand back breathless ?

TL;DR – Michael Angelo created “The Last Judgement” because he wanted to. The result is a master piece because it looks awesome and breath-taking. This is the truth. Anything else you add to this is an unproven story.